We’ve been reading, reading, reading in the Toalson home, and two of my boys have just finished Unbound, by Ann E Burg, a short middle grade novel written in verse. I read it a couple of months ago, and this allowed us to have conversations about the subject matter, which is slavery and the escape of a slave family from masters who had authority to separate and sell them.

I loved this book because of the themes that ran through it, namely that people can still be heroes, even when they aren’t calling attention to themselves. There were several heroes in this story who remained slaves but helped others escape. It was not only a wonderfully accurate look at an important time in our history but an inspirational account of what one slave family did to remain together.

Here are three things I enjoyed most about this book:

  1. The musicality of the language. Burg is a masterful poet (she’s written two other novels in verse and has really honed her style and expertise through practice). This novel included some dialect, but it was not difficult to figure out what characters were saying. In fact, I read this one aloud to my 5-year-old twins, and they understood every word.
  2. The window into a slave’s life. This is an often-passed-over time in our history, and I was so glad to see such an emotionally satisfying novel about it come out on the market. (Another good one about slavery is Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis). It was a lovely representation of this time period in our history.
  3. The themes. Burg wove several into her text—freedom is within, not without. Quiet people can be heroes, too. Family is worth risking everything for.

These words sum up the book for me (consonants missing are dialect pieces):

“Freedom’s not jus a place
you find on a map.
“Freedom’s living
with folks who love you
n having the space
to love yourself.”

The book mentioned above has an affiliate link attached to it, which means I’ll get a small kick-back if you click on it and purchase. But I only recommend books I enjoy reading myself. Actually, I don’t even talk about books I didn’t enjoy. I’d rather forget I ever wasted time reading them. (But if you’re curious whether I’ve read something and what I thought about it, don’t hesitate to ask.)